Jon Snow is dead. Long live Jon Snow.
We’re back in the land of Westeros, living in a post-Jon Snow world (for the moment? Maybe? We hope?) trying to pick up the wildly scattered pieces in Season 6 of “Game of Thrones.” The series, having transcended its book form, now has anywhere and everywhere to go.
So where do showrunners David Benioff and D.B. Weiss want to go? In this first episode, which they wrote, and was directed by Jeremy Podeswa, they look to the women of the show, who are gathering themselves up from the shattering events of last season, and getting ready to step into their own power.
READ MORE: Watch: First Spoiler Free Clip From ‘Game Of Thrones ‘ Season 6
If there’s a theme to “The Red Woman,” it might just be Girl Power, which is a promising turn. The show has always been interested in women in power, from Daenerys to Cersei to Catelyn Stark, though it’s been a rough go of it, and it seems like power for women often goes hand in hand with sexual humiliation, assault, and murder. It will be interesting to see how this arc develops, especially as the writers find further distance from George R.R. Martin’s text.
In this first episode, it’s about the gathering of steam, building toward something new, and leaving the old behind. New energies, new coalitions, new vengeances. First there’s Sansa (Sophie Turner), who received the brunt of the brutality last season, married off in a political gesture to sadistic rapist and dismember-er Ramsay Bolton (Iwan Rheon). She finds something to live for when Theon Greyjoy (Alfie Allen) invites her to jump from Winterfell’s walls and escape into the forest, murdering Ramsay’s lover Myranda (Charlotte Hope) in the process.
So, it’s not the greatest plan, and they’re almost immediately caught by a search party with bloodhounds (Ramsay needs that precious Stark womb for heir-making and North-taking), but by the luck of timing, they are rescued by Brienne of Tarth (Gwendoline Christie), fresh off killing Stannis Baratheon, who murcs the whole crew with the help of trusty Podrick (Daniel Porter). She re-pledges herself to Sansa’s service, and the broken, hypothermic young woman promptly swears her in, because… what other option does she have? Still, seeing Sansa out of Ramsay’s grasp, with people by her side who are truly on her side is truly heartening for the Stark sister who has seen the worst in humanity.
READ MORE: ‘Game Of Thrones’ Showrunners Say There Will Only Be 13 More Episodes After Season 6
Her sister Arya (Maisie Williams) is also at rock bottom. She transgressed her training at the House of Black and White, taking a face from the Wall in order to murder Meryn Trant in a crime of vengeance for the death of her teacher Syrio Forel. She hadn’t yet been able to become No One, keeping her Someone status, her Arya Stark-ness. Jaqen H’ghar punished her with blindness, and now the young girl is just another Braavosi beggar, and her mean old roommate is beating her up with a stick. But that beating just might make the feisty youngest Stark sibling into a superhero — a Daredevil/Zatoichi type.
Cersei Lannister (Lena Headey) also saw her lowest moment last season, atoning for her many, many sins with a casual Shame Stroll through King’s Landing. But just when she drove that bell from her mind, and thought things couldn’t get any worse, her brother/lover Jaime (Nikolaj Coster-Waldau) returns from Dorne with her precious daughter Myrcella in a golden body bag, the victim of a Sand Snake’s poison kiss.
Headey has but a few minutes on screen but they are some of the best of her “Game of Thrones” career. Podeswa wisely puts the camera on her face throughout, especially during Jaime’s approach in the harbor. Cersei’s face goes from hopeful to horrified to wistful sorrow in about a minute, and it’s incredible to behold.
She mourns the loss of her sweet daughter, the one good thing she made that she believed made her less of a monster. She rages at the truth of the witch’s prophecy, which foretold she would lose all three children. Though Jaime assures her, “fuck prophecy, fuck fate, fuck everyone who isn’t us,” the look on Cersei’s face as they embrace shows that she can’t buy into this.
It’s clear that Cersei’s wrath will reach Dorne, but the women of Dorne are also making big moves to assure their power in the Nation. No sooner does Doran Martell (Alexander Siddig) read the news of the death of Myrcella, his future-daughter in law, than he is shivved in cold blood by Ellaria Sand (Indira Varma), who stands over his bleeding body and promises that “weak men will never rule Dorne again.” Trystane, Myrcella’s beloved? He’s dispatched by two of the Sand Snakes with a spear rudely through the nose on his pretty face. Looks like Dorne’s getting a lady president! #ImWithHer
Daenerys Targaryen (Emilia Clarke) might have some advice on the pitfalls of ruling kingdoms though. Meereen’s currently in the hands of Tyrion (Peter Dinklage) and Varys (Conleth Hall) who are minding the shop after Drogon the dragon flew his mother off to random field (typical dragon hazards). The former King’s Landing bigwigs are getting the lay of the land—things seem to be going well with the outright rebellion, what with the anti-establishment graffiti, Lord of Light street preaching, and every ship in the harbor up in flames. Looks like those two are stuck there for a minute.
Meanwhile, boring handsome, pit fighting detectives Jorah Mormont (Iain Glen) and Daario Naharis (Michiel Huisman) are off mooing over their lady and playing CSI: Dothraki. Thanks to the horse tornado crop circle, they find the ring Dany dropped. Good job, boring handsome detectives. Mormont Greyscale level: very ashy, needs some Neosporin on that thing.
Dany’s on her own with the Dothraki, who have death marched her to the camp of Khal Moro (Joseph Naufahu), keeping up a litany of gross sexual commentary all the way. Little do they, or Khal Moro and his sassy wives know, that Dany, of the House of Targaryen, the first of her name, the unburnt, the Queen of Meereen, Queen of the Andals and of the the Rhoynar and the First Men, Khaleesi of the Great Grass Sea, Breaker of Chains and Mother of Dragons (that definitely doesn’t fit on a business card and that’s gotten longer, right? When did she add in the Rhoynar?) speaks perfect Dothraki. When she mentions her ex, Khal Drogo, Khal Moro decides that no, he won’t lie with with her, instead choosing to send her to a temple where the other Khal widows live, which could be either awesome or super lame, but at least there might be less rape threats?
The episode begins and ends with the complicated power of a woman and whether or not she can, or will, save our Jon Snow (Kit Harington). The opening shot is of our dearly departed Lord Commander, freshly daggered by Alliser Thorne (Owen Teale), but dead as a doornail. Hearing the howls of Ghost, Lord Davos (Liam Cunningham) steps outside to find Snow’s body (dude, where were you when the group stabbing went down outside your door? Total Kitty Genovese moment).
He brings his body inside with the help of Snow’s loyal men, and invites Melisandre (Carice Van Houten) in too. Davos knows what she can do, being a Lord of Light Priestess and all — remember all the reanimating Thoros of Myr got up to? But he still wants to stack the deck in their favor against the usurper Thorne, so he sends one man off to negotiate with the Wildlings, who may be loyal to Snow.
But we’re not sure if Melisandre is actually going to do her thing with Mr. Snow. The last scene is of the priestess getting ready for bed, inspecting her nubile flesh as she undresses. The last thing to come off is her formidable choker, with a stone that seems to glow red. Suddenly she’s a white-haired, wizened old woman, seen in all of her nakedness before she climbs into bed. Old people are very tired, after all, and that bed looks comfy AF.
What are we to make of this development? Of course, it’s not so much of a surprise that the magical Melisandre is approx. 400 years old. Is she too tired to reanimate zombie Jon Snow? Stay tuned for the next exciting chapter, and leave your nice and respectful commentary below!
Wanted to share a little game that my GOT Watch Party and I do every week that you all might enjoy yourselves. The name of the game is “Boobs, Deaths, Dinks,” and the originators of the game are Patrick Davison and Michelle Forelle. The official rules are on Patrick’s site here, but here’s a quick primer: before the show airs, have everyone predict the following: 1. Number of individual exposed boobs, 2. How many on screen deaths or off screen deaths of a named character and 3. How many scenes with Peter Dinklage (follow screenwriting rules: if there would be a new scene titled “INT.” or “EXT.” it counts as a scene). You can do a bonus round for a tiebreaker — this week we predicted who we would NOT see in the episode.
Tally up who gets closest to the total count to determine the winner, and then decide what the winner gets. In our game, the loser has to draw a scene from the show of the winner’s choosing — it can even be an (erotic) fan fic illustration too.
Boobs, Deaths, Dinks Count: 4, 9, 4, and the bonus point went to the participant who guessed no Bran this ep.
Happy Gaming, Throners.